Executive Chef: Kevin Boreham
Restaurant seats: 90
Reservations recommended in the warmer months
ORA is a growing franchise that has set out to impress in the premium/casual restaurant circle. And they do it well.
ORA is community minded and set themselves apart in several ways. First off, 85 per cent of their wines come from British Columbia. They also have a commitment to using local food producers whenever possible. They focus on achieving a 100-mile radius whenever possible so the ingredients that go into your food are as fresh as possible.
General Manager, Riley Krieger-Mercer, is excited about other changes too. "There is a large patio on top of the Best Western that we have turned into a garden," he explained. "There will be dining up there for special occasions and private parties where instead of the 100-mile diet, you will have the 10 metre diet, where all the food you eat will be grown within a few metres of where you sit."
The restaurant is also working with Best Western owner Greg Salloum on another project. Salloum has an organic farm and ORA is composting all their kitchen scraps to be used as fertilizer at the farm which in turn will supply ORA with fresh produce.
Chef Kevin Boreham is excited about all the changes. "One of our feature sheets coming out soon will have a very local influence. I love having the ability to work with a team that is so passionate about creating a great product from local foods. About 90% of the food we serve here is made here. We make our breads from scratch too. In my opinion, the food isn't good until the person paying for it is happy with it."
I visited ORA for lunch, and I was quite happy with the food.
First up were the Crab Cakes with roasted red pepper aioli for $13. A nice small meal in itself as it is served with an arugula and cherry tomato mini-salad. The crab cakes are made with Ocean Wise Dungenous crab, known for its wonderfully sweet meat. Instead of mixing the crab with potato filler, it is blended with corn, diced pepper, dill, and a small amount of mayo. It is then breaded with panko, garlic, mustard seed and red pepper. The beauty of this dish is it isn't over mixed or processed. You can feel the texture of the crabmeat when take a bite. All the flavours in the cake are present and accounted for in each mouthful.
Next was the Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese at $11. Holy garlic batman! And was it ever good. The goat cheese is sourced locally and blended with visible chunks of roasted garlic and shallots and topped with house made, balsamic oven dried tomatoes. The Artichoke Aioli Crustinis are crunchy and oh so good, gently slathered with a mixture of artichoke aioli, parsley and oregano.
Make sure you get cheese, garlic, and tomato all together on your crustini for a taste sensation that will kill any germs trying to invade your body.
I must pause for a moment and let you know about the wonderful drinks they have at ORA. For lunch we were presented with three choices.
First, a white peach Bellini with sangria on top. A little sweet for my taste, but it would be great for those who love Bellinis.
The Pink Sangria was almost too pretty to taste. Made with berries from their rooftop and local rose wines, it was perfectly blended so the berries added a background flavour, and did not overpower the true nature of the wine.
A house favourite is the ORA Borealis, made with Hendricks Gin, muddled cucumber, mint, soda and citrus slush to provide just a hint of sweet. This is destined to be a great summer patio drink.
ORA also have their own wine blends made for them. The ORA red is a blend of five red wines from Desert Hills winery.The ORA Blonde Moment is a white blend, which relies heavily on Pinot Blanc and comes from St. Hubertus. Both ORA wines are $9 a glass or $36 for the bottle.
For the main course we had Oceanwise Sockeye Salmon at $24. The dish was served with grilled lime, beets, roasted potatoes and broccolini and topped with a delicious peach salsa with cilantro and fresh onion. The salsa was perfectly balanced with just the right amount of heat to counter the sweetness of the peach. The fish is so fresh, ordering it medium rare is recommended for those who love fresh salmon.
We were also served one of the more popular dishes at ORA, the Chicken and Mango Penne at $16. It was evident from the scent wafting off the dish, why this is so often ordered. They make the curry butter in house, which gives a fresh flavour to the sauce. Tender chicken chunks are mixed with cilantro, peppers, onions and cashew nuts making it reminiscent of a Thai dish, if it weren't for the large chunks of mango in the slightly sweet mango chutney. Chef said he was trying to captivate the senses with this dish, and he did. The dish was sweet with just enough warmth to pull it all together.
If you've read my reviews before you know I am big on appies and desserts and Chef Kevin did not fail me on this one. It is deserving of an O.M.G. (please note - it got the biggest photo because I want you to see this work of art up close)
The Okanagan Pear Galette was scrumptious; there is no other word to describe it. At $7.50 this is an amazingly simple, yet elegant dessert. The pears are poached in cinnamon, rosemary, thyme, a little sugar and white wine. Then they are arranged in a puff pastry and baked. Once out of the oven, it is topped off with vanilla bean gelato and drizzled with caramel sauce and a smidge of icing sugar. Even if you are full - have this - share it - wallow in its simple decadence and make sure you get a little taste of everything in each bite. Yep… it's that good. They bake it to order, it is not premade so make sure you give yourself enough time to stick around and try it.
Delicious photos by Kirstin Wakal
Actually, ORA is a shrinking franchise, not a growing one. They have locations in Vernon and Kamloops, but the Vernon ORA will close in June.Quote